IBON Features - Malacañang is set to sign next week the new Tourism Act of 2009, which will reclassify lands, including productive farmlands and coastal areas, into tourism zones. It is feared that, with this law, land use conversion of farmlands and privatization of coastal areas will intensify. The reclassification of lands for tourism means only one thing for rural families, and this is the large-scale physical and economic displacement of farmers and fisherfolk communities.
The tourism act mandates the creation of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA); and Tourism Economic Zones (TEZ) which as defined by the act is "any geographic area that is capable of being defined into one contiguous territory; it has historical and cultural significance, environmental beauty, or existing or potential integrated leisure facilities within its bounds or within reasonable distances from it." Furthermore, the law if signed will reinforce various questionable issuances by the Arroyo and past governments declaring certain areas in the country as tourism zones.
The most recent is the Executive Order (EO) 647 signed by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita in behalf of Pres. Arroyo on August 3, 2007, which declared 21 barangays of the municipality of Nasugbu, Batangas as a major tourism destination and part of the Tourism Economic Zone. This is despite the existing land disputes not only in Hacienda Looc but in the various estates in Nasugbu. EO 647 effectively converts the entire 21 farming and fishing barangays of Nasugbu into tourism areas, covering some 14,000 hectares of rice lands, sugar farms and coastal areas - or half of Nasugbu's total land area.
According to fisherfolk network Pambansang Lakas ng mga Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas, EO 467 would effect the displacement of 63,000 farmers and fisherfolk from their sources of livelihood in the 41 farming and fishing villages in the barangays of Kaylaway, Aga, Banilad, Tumalim, Bilaran, Riparo, Katandaan, Cogonan, Wawa, Bucana, Natipoan, Balaitigue, Latag, Mataas na Pulo, Lumbangan and Bulihan in Batangas.
One of the arguments of the government for aggressively promoting tourism is employment. According to Senator Richard Gordon, former Tourism Secretary, tourism is the best way to mitigate the impact of the global financial crisis to the Philippine economy and is the fastest and most efficient way of generating foreign exchange, investments and employment. However, like foreign investments and remittances, tourism is considered an unstable source of revenues and employment. In fact, a paper presented at the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) last year reported that the loss of livelihoods in agriculture through tourism and the high out-migration of locals from tourism areas indicate that tourism destroys more jobs than it creates.
According to labor statistics, the tourism sector employs roughly 10% of the labor force. In contrast, official employment data in the agriculture sector is 35%, but is believed to even reach 75% when agriculture-related jobs are taken into account. The agriculture sector's contribution to the economy is also undoubtedly more significant at 18% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), compared to tourism's 7 percent. A Department of Tourism study even estimated that tourism's direct contribution to the country's economy is only 2% of the GDP.
The government's apparent fixation on tourism is merely another illustration of how skewed and anti-people its economic policies are. While government allocates billions of pesos to infrastructure development to support tourists and potential investors and promotes tourism for foreign tourism corporations, it encourages the displacement of agricultural communities and continues to default on their much-needed support and subsidy.
However if the administration truly wants to mitigate pressing problems such as poverty, unemployment, and low incomes, it should focus on developing the key sectors of the economy - agriculture and industry - instead of prioritizing efforts that would only worsen the people's livelihood, landlessness and displacement. IBON Features